Saturday, 8 July 2017

A trip to the far North...

Just back from a fun 2 day trip to the far North of Scotland. Highlights were climbing Ben Hope, the most Northerly munro, van camping (and getting midged), seeing some amazing scenery on the North Coast of Scotland, a Cullen Skink stop when it rained and great drive down alongside Loch Shin. So much more to explore....

Deer in wheat field spotted before leaving home


Just starting the slog up Ben Hope

Gaining height (before the cloud)

Looking back at Ben Hope - arrows helpfully show the way!
Moine House old croft

With interesting graffiti ! 

Another stunning road/view area

Ben Loyal :-) 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Logie Head Climbing (but only just!)

Well short notice day off and really crazy and changeable weather forecasts left us in a predicament... West Coast looked sunny from midday, but still and therefore ?midgy... or go East, but showers may be present until around lunch, or was it just after....

On the walk in... rain approaching...
Made the seemingly never ending drive out East on the Moray Coast to Logie Head near Cullen. Unfortunately Loz was a little grumpy and wouldn't let me stop to get a PVC table cloth (road side opportunity) or look in Cullen's marvelous brico-brac shop....

But I went along with the three line whip and we parked at a beautiful static caravan park at Cullen (charming!) for the walk in to Logie Head. The weather looked interesting, as we had driven through several rain showers heading East to catch us up?!

Loz show boating
Logie Head is beautiful and we quickly climbed one route, before I declared (after looking skyward) that the rain wouldn't bother us here.... Well after a couple of hours of rain, wandering, waiting, dozing, annoying each other it dried off at around 4pm.

We did a few more perfect routes on dry rock and I was loving life again. I think the rock is greywackie (!), quite small 10m routes, but perfectly formed - wowsa.

Then things took a turn for the worse.. Loz's dream was to get out to the far wall which is slightly tidal and involved a green, slimy, greasy scramble down a gully whilst being watched by scary nesting guls... this lead to a climb through a cave/hole, and descent to a tidal platform... All good so far.

Loz climbed a route on this 'fabled' portion of the cliff, but unfortunately had to top out into gulgeddon, a narrow rocky ridge covered in guls. There was no alternative, no abseil to be rigged, no escape, no surrender. He belayed me up whilst being dive bombed... I got to the top and had to run across the rocky knife edge ridge to sanctuary whilst being hit on the head by diving guls!!!

The gul area (at the top!)
Well I made it, but what a stressful finish... I think we both have PTGD (post traumatic gul disorder), and sitting in Loz's van in Cullen eating fish and chips we both found ourselves nervously looking around the skies for the next attack wave....

Friday, 9 June 2017

The hebridean way cycle route....

Well even though I had no idea what the plan was, and what to expect we headed off on a cycle tour of the Western Isles with Janet and Rob. For the record I have to state that my inability to know what was going on was entirely my fault!

Castlebay on Barra

Ferry port somewhere..
Rob did all of the organising, planning the route, where to stay, travel, ferry etc, etc.... which was great, but as I loaded our bikes into the bike taxi for the trip down to Oban and onward ferry to the Isle of Barra I felt a little shell shocked, as we hadn't done much cycle training, and I hadn't even looked at a map of the Western Isles.....

Last minute I'd thrown in a sketch pad and pencils thinking I would draw/sketch and strangely (for me) I found myself sketching some of the views from the off on the trip!


It was a great week, cycling from Barra in the South to the Butt of Lewis in the North. Barra was beautiful and the day after arriving we cycled to the top of the island and caught the Ferry to Eriskay... From here a causeway leads to South Uist.... which leads (via another causeway) to Benbecula (again beautiful)... Next came North Uist and then (another causeway) a great night on Berneray by the beach looking out to sea and Harris. This place was cool and quirky. They had an old fashioned (now in vogue) toilet with a crab strategically placed on the top looking over the system... As I pulled the chain unfortunately 'crabby' lost a claw, which fell in the loo and got flushed out to sea!!! Oh dear, we had to make a swift exit the following morning.

Uist (I think!)

Janet and Rob
Harris was spectacular, coinciding with a sunny day, which always helps. The beaches (Seilebost - wow), and colours of the sea looked tropical and to me quite alien for the UK. After a long while admiring a Golden Eagle looking for pray gliding around the sky close by we dropped into Tarbert for an unusual night on day ?3 or 4 (I've lost track already!).

Well rested after a night in the soviet style 'breeze block' hostel we got an early start for the big hill climb day. It was pretty bad weather, heavy rain and harsh winds as we set off, and was fairly horrific being blown off the road a few times by crazy side winds on our longest cycle day (50 miles).

Seilebost on Harris - wow

The weather improved and we made it to the Callanish standing stones, spending 2 hours drying off and replacing energy in their cafe. Eventually we left and went on to stay in some restored Black Houses by the sea at Gearrannan. This is a beautiful spot and even though we all crowded into a room the size of a match box it was a great spot to be.

Day 'no idea' we headed to the Butt of Harris and the sort of official finish to the cycle route. The lighthouse and views were better than anticipated and we saw quite a few cyclists we had seen on and off over the week. We stayed at an unusual B&B near here that provided incredible food, and were serenaded by piano as we dined (very surprising and enjoyable).

Callanish 2 (I think)

Callanish 1 - busy!!

The Broch...
I think its fair to say that we were all reasonably stiff (various places) on the last day as we arose and only had the last 30 miles back to Stornaway to go. This was quite tough being into a headwind.

Staying in a black house
Stornaway was more picturesque than anticipated and we spend a couple of hours here eating, looking around and awaiting the ferry back to Ullapool. So that was that... 1 week, 240 miles of cycling, some amazing scenery and a great week. It would be great to go back with more time and explore these great islands.

The butt of Harris

The longggg road (headwind) back to Stornaway

Monday, 22 May 2017

Climbing, but not at Logie Head...

Having a free Monday the plan was to climb at Logie Head, way out East on the Moray Firth Coast, but as I'd also booked my van into the garage and they were grumpy when I picked up the courtesy car and said 'this must be back for 5pm, no buts...' then it seemed a bit tight with the drive times and Martin's arrival time after sorting his horses.

Nice setting

He arrived a little weary... not due to his 'new' age of 60 (snigger), but because he had been up until 3am playing online chess!

Martin exploring the cave
Instead we headed to Cummingston, again on the Moray Firth Coast, just much nearer. I'd not been here so it was still exciting. The weather was nice and we saw some unusual Mammatus clouds on the drive over.

On left - VS 5a

The rock is sandstone of various quality and it was a lovely place to spend a day and climb. We climbed 6 routes I think, and the highlights were Right (HVS), Diedre of Doubt (HVS limited gear but fun) and Stegosaurus a fun VS. The bouldering looked fun too so I must pop back..

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Bike exploration...

Time sure is flying and the weather has been brilliant and I've been out bouldering lots. Alas I think the midges and ticks have just arrived which could impact activities a little. I have to remember that this is the first Scottish summer having only moved up late last August.

Orrin reservoir 

Fun dam wall and ancient Scots Pine stump
For a change of scene we went to explore on a local ride that I'd read would be good after dry weather. It starts from Aultgowrie and heads up a private (no vehicles) single track road to the Orrin Reservoir. Even though this is on tarmac its a nice climb as the views open up the higher you get.

Riding over the dam at the top is fun and the track continues, quickly getting rougher once past the hydro scheme/dam. Just before turning off this track we stumbled upon a bothy (Scottish Hydro) which provided a welcome relief and we stopped for a snack in it and met a Lithuanian guy (the only other person we saw).

start of the single track...

From the bothy you have to find the start of a stalkers path that heads off into the moors which was no mean feat. This track which was vague to start with took us all the way back and provided some fantastic single track riding, tight, rocky, smooth, overgrown, fast, slow... it basically had it all and was great fun!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Diabaig delivers - BIG!

I spend a magical day climbing at Diabaig near Torridon with Shaw and Judith. What a day! Maybe I should just say that it was fantastic, but I don't think that quite cuts it. I want to say more....

Quick coffee...
I love being a climber... I love the people you meet and climb/share it with....I love the movement and sense of freedom that you get when climbing..... I love that by travelling all over the world you get to see different cultures, countries and see special and often unusual wild scenery. I love that you can have surprise interactions with nature and the landscape and elements.... I love that every different rock type and cliff is different to climb and makes you evaluate and adjust your technique.... I love the personal physical challenge of climbing.... I love the fact that climbing is an activity that is so absorbing that you (I) forget time, worries, and just focus in the movement and whats immediately in front of you...

The walk in..
Sometimes the actual climb can be fantastic or mediocre, and the setting can be on the same scale, so it can mean so much, or sometimes less so.... The climbing I remember from Yosemite in the states has great meaning to me, but some of it wasn't fantastic, far from it, but the situation, scale and being on El Cap, in Toulumne Meadows or the High Sierra made up for it! Sure some of the climbing was world class too, but I have a macro memory of it, more than the actual moves and lines (apart from Snake Dike of course!). And I also have memories (lots) of the fact that often gritstone climbing although much smaller with routes at 10-35m (at a stretch) is more aesthetic with magical, absorbing movements patterns.... zen like!

The Black Streak - E1

First pitch 'Route 2' - HVS
So yesterday (again) I hit black gold... I headed off early to meet Shaw and Judith at the Torridon campsite and we loaded up in the van and headed to Diabaig. It was sunny and warm, and the setting was absolutely stunning. Parked up at Diabaig we brewed up some coffee and sat by the van looking out to sea taking in the magical colours and movement of the water.

Shaw on The Pillar - E2

Felt lonely just watching..

Okay so the climbing was 'off the frickin hook' also (another American ref!). Just the most fantastic climbing that I can remember/think of. Crisp, clean lines/cracks with friction to die for whilst having sea views. We climbed route 2 (classic HVS) and The Black Streak (E1) - both 2 pitch. We weren't rushing, but talking about how relaxed and absorbed you can become I was slightly surprised that it was 4.30pm after just these 2 routes. Not wishing to leave just yet Shaw lead 'The Pillar', the classic E2 of the crag. An absorbing and spooky route to even second. Wow, wow, wow, what a day. Scotland really delivered today, who could ask for more than this.